As the polar vortex swept throughout New York, Governor Andrew Cuomo prepared to give the state of the state address for 2014. Speculations were high as to what the top priority would be, with talk of amending the state’s schools and education system, the consideration of access to medical marijuana, and using federal Sandy funds to provide housing units in storm-ravaged areas.
In his address, Cuomo identified how New York has faced nine major disasters in the past three years. He outlined strategies to protect New York infrastructure from extreme weather such as ‘inflatable plugs for subway tunnels to keep water out’. He spoke about climate change and the need to make communities and natural environments more resilient to it. Cuomo intends to install the nations most advanced early detection weather system and train 100,000 citizens in emergency preparedness for free by the end of the year to assist in weather emergencies in homes and communities. In addition to this, he announced the establishment of the nation’s first college on emergency preparedness.
The absence of any reference to hydraulic fracking in Governor Cuomo’s speech was particularly conspicuous, as hundreds of people had protested at the Empire State Plaza calling for a ban on the natural gas drilling activity. However, the governor alluded to important issues such as clean energy and climate resiliency, maintaining New York should be leading the way on environmental issues. He has committed $1 billion to the NY Sun Initiative solar program over the next ten years, which will cut solar prices, reduce the empire state’s carbon footprint and create clean energy jobs and businesses.
As anticipated, Cuomo placed much emphasis on education and training, with the introduction of Universal Pre-Kindergarten statewide and the Smart Classrooms Initiative revealed. This will incorporate “equipment such as laptops, desktops, tablets, infrastructure upgrades and high speed broadband and remake our classrooms for tomorrow”. He also affirmed his support of SUNY and CUNY 2020 programs and the provision of additional job training for prisoners released from prisons. The governor detailed how 13,000 inner city youth were assisted in finding work through the NY Youth Works Program the past year, and he plans on extending this program to increase employment and training among them. Overall, unemployment figures have decreased the past year, with a significant increase in jobs in the tourism sector, and the establishment of regional economic development councils in communities aiding to such.
Overall, Governor Cuomo made attributable proposals for the state of New York for 2014. Although he supports efforts to alter the education system, he failed to acknowledge the importance of arts in the classroom, a proven mechanism for achievement. Instead, his focus was quite narrow - on new technology in classrooms in the Smart Classrooms Initiative and teacher bonuses. The failure to mention how he would finance Universal Pre-Kindergarten was also evident. It is anticipated strategies to make communities more resilient to climate change will come into action soon, so that we do not have to suffer as severely the detrimental impacts another hurricane Sandy would have on our state again.
Niamh Carroll, Program Coordinator